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2017 Nissan Pathfinder: First Drive Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Russ Heaps August 2016

A significant sprucing up of the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder better prepares this 3-row crossover to complete the balance of its fourth-generation life cycle. As is typical of most midgenerational resets, Nissan didn't attempt to redefine the Pathfinder; instead, they administered a small hit of adrenaline to carry it through the next 3 or 4 years.

With each Pathfinder generation so far, Nissan has seesawed from a truck-based, body-on-frame setup and a carlike unibody setup to a truck-based version and, finally, back to a carlike setup again. In the midst of one of its unibody incarnations again, the 2017 Pathfinder will roll into showrooms in September with a few styling enhancements, additional driver-assistance technology and no loss of fuel economy, despite measurably higher horsepower and torque.

Pricing for the 2017 Pathfinder is up only a marginal amount over the previous one. The entry-level S grade rings the register at $29,990 before the $900 factory destination charge. That's an increase of $210. At the top end of the cost spectrum, the 4-wheel-drive (4WD) Platinum trim is up $310 to $43,560.

Thrust

At the recent media introduction of the refreshed 2017 Pathfinder in Carmel, California, presenters said its V6 is new. Well, it really depends on how you define new. If, in your mind, 56 percent of the engine's parts being new qualifies the V6 as new, it's new. However, these new parts were installed in the 3.5-liter V6 powering the outgoing 2016 Pathfinder. You decide.

Quibbling about the definition of new aside, fresh elements, like sequential multipoint fuel injection, have boosted performance, yet manage to deliver the same Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-estimated mileage numbers. Hp is upped from 260 to 284, while peak torque jumps from 240 lb-ft to 259 lb-ft.

Based on Maxima's transmission, an XTRONIC continuously variable transmission (CVT) distributes engine output to the wheels. CVTs are almost a religion at Nissan, and they make them better than just about any other carmaker. This one includes Nissan's D-Step Logic Control that simulates actual shifting for a more traditional driving experience.

In addition to swapping some engine parts, Nissan beefed up the suspension with stiffer shocks and increased spring rates. The 2017 Pathfinder's maximum towing capacity is up by 1,000 pounds to 6,000 pounds, the best in class by Nissan's calculations. All-wheel drive (AWD) is available as Nissan's ALL MODE 4X4-i system. It allows the driver to select among full-time 2-wheel drive, automatic AWD or a lock mode for full-time 4WD.

EPA-estimated fuel economy holds steady at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 22 mpg in combined city and highway driving.

Accommodations

Pathfinder continues in four trims: S, SV, SL and Platinum. All grades received a redesigned center console with reconfigured cup holders, an illuminated front-storage bin and a second USB port. Located between the speedometer and tachometer, the standard Advanced Drive-Assist Display provides additional displays and information. Depending on where they fall in the model lineup, some grades offer upgraded cloth on the seats and new metal or wood accents.

Still the heart of the NissanConnect services, the touchscreen has grown from 7 to 8 inches in 2017. In just about every other way, Pathfinder's cabin is unchanged.

Wrapper

Park the 2016 and 2017 Pathfinder side by side, and a few differences jump out. Again, Nissan didn't set out to overhaul the exterior styling. What it did do was pick a few areas relatively inexpensive to change and diddled with them just enough so we'd notice. Most of the enhancements worth mentioning are from the windshield forward, where Nissan incorporated styling cues from the Maxima's snout. Primarily, they include the V-Motion grille and boomerang-shaped headlights, featuring LED daytime running lights. Nissan also tweaked the hood, front bumper and fog lights.

Tracing down the side of the 2017, the profile is basically unchanged. At the rear, Nissan refashioned the taillights and bumper. A new feature is the available motion-activated lift gate. Pass a foot beneath the center of the lift gate, and it automatically opens.

Automation

Other than the rearview camera, Pathfinder's advanced driver-assistance systems --like blind spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear parking assist and Around View Monitor with cameras providing a view all the way around the vehicle -- aren't available, even as options on the entry-level S trim. This holds true for the new-for-2017 forward emergency braking, Intelligent Cruise Control (both only on Platinum grade) and the improved-for-2017 Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection.

Motoring

We had the opportunity to drive the updated Pathfinder on and off the road. The new suspension pieces have done much in the way of settling this vehicle. On the pavement, it feels more planted and stable. Some changes in the steering system provide for quicker response, making the 2017 model more agile. Of course, the increased ponies and torque deliver a more aggressive driving experience.

Simply put, the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder is better than the crossover it replaces.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Nissan Pathfinder: First Drive Review - Autotrader